Help: The Holidays Are Too Much For Her!

Dear Vicki: It’s been a tough year for me in many ways and the whole idea of creating the holidays my family has come to expect overwhelms me. But the minute I decide to cut back on decorating and buying gifts, I feel guilty. On top of that, even though my children have families of their own, when I mentioned not baking Christmas cookies this year they were shocked and now I’m worried they’ll be too disappointed if I don’t bake. I’m taking care of my own mother and working full time, and I just don’t have the energy or joy in me to do the whole holiday thing. Is there an easy way to tell my family that I want to skip the holidays this year? Signed: Tired in Tennessee

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Dear Tired: I can promise that you’re not alone in your desire to skip the holidays. I’ve heard from many people – mostly women – who have expressed similar sentiments. And it’s very understandable. Here in the U.S. the holidays have become a behemoth commercial event perpetuated by a retail industry brilliant at pushing all of our “make it perfect” buttons. Somehow, we seem to have bought into the idea that bigger and better matter, but deep inside I suspect we know that isn’t true. So why does the commercialization of the season still exert such a hold on us?

I think most of us go crazy around the holidays in the name of love. For centuries, gift giving has been a primary expression of love and esteem. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s actually part of our Five Elements make-up. Sharing with others is an expression of the Earth element. Earth is also where home, family, food, and deep, lasting relationships sit. Sounds like the holidays, doesn’t it? And those clever advertising people figured out decades ago that if they tie all of these things together during the holiday season, they create a very powerful message. Nothing tugs at our heartstrings more than the idea of sharing gifts and meals with those we love during this special season.

In truth, there’s nothing wrong with this idea. What is wrong is that the expression of this idea has become exceedingly unbalanced, mostly because our western cultures are patriarchies, which by definition are yang energy dominant. Yang believes that more is always better than less. So in a patriarchal culture, we have come to “believe” that doing/sharing/giving more means loving more. And I think that’s where you’re getting tripped up. Honestly, that’s where we all get tripped up. We’re pretty much all celebrating the holidays from a place of imbalance. But that doesn’t need to happen, especially to you.  Let’s look at how you can bring balance back to yourself and your family this holiday season.

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She’s Ready to Cut Ties with Her Brother

Dear Vicki: I feel terrible admitting this, but my brother and I fight about everything. I spent most of this year arguing with Ted about whether to sell our parent’s house (Mom passed two years ago and we just relocated my father to a retirement home) or keep it for rental income. We disagreed about which facility to place him in (my brother won), what to do with all the furnishings when we moved Dad (my brother won), who should host the holidays (I won only because I pointed out that his house is under renovation), etc. I’m a nurse and Ted’s a doctor, so he often points out that he knows more about everything than I, so I should just do what he says. I’m weary of the fighting and his angry, aggressive attitude toward me. I’d really like peace in the family, so I am seriously considering breaking off ties with him completely. The desire to do this has been especially strong this fall. I hate to tear the family a part, really the idea hurts my heart, but is there ever going to be a way to fix our relationship? Signed: Weary in Wisconsin

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Dear Weary: Family dynamics can be especially difficult. As the old saying goes, we pick our friends but are stuck with our family. Your family has been through some difficult times lately, too, with the loss of your mother, the relocation of your father, and the possible sale of your family home. This level of stress tends to bring out the very best, or the very worst, in us all. And while you and your brother may never be best friends, a little understanding might help you get along when you need to. And that is where the Five Elements model can help.

Ted sounds very much like a Wood personality. Wood people appreciate prestige, and our culture certainly holds doctors in high esteem. Ted would have needed a great deal of perseverance to make it though medical school, and Wood people usually have the stamina to push through barriers and succeed at manifesting almost anything. In fact, in the Five Elements model, Wood is represented by the power of spring, an energy that brings forth life from the darkness of winter.  You, on the other hand, sound more like an Earth personality. Earth people are usually very caring and compassionate. They want everyone to be happy and are miserable when there is fighting. Few people on the planet are more caring and compassionate than nurses, so your choice of professions also supports the strong likelihood that you are an Earth personality.

If we look at the primary relationship dynamic between Wood people and Earth people as outlined in the Five Elements model, we see that they relate via the Controlling cycle, with Wood controlling Earth. This means that it could feel to you like Ted is trying to get the upper hand when you argue because, in the Five Elements model, it is Wood’s job to make sure that Earth holds strong in the face of too much neediness from others. Left to their own devices, Earths can give so much to others that they deplete themselves physically or emotionally. When faced with an Earth that is giving too much, a Wood personality will often step in and try to control the situation to protect the Earth.

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Hate Crimes: Who ARE These People?

Dear Readers: Last Saturday, 11 people were killed and two others critically injured during religious services at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh when a lone gunman entered the building intending to “kill Jews.” As a result of his actions, he has been arrested and charged with federal hate crimes, which the FBI defines as crimes where the perpetrators act based on a specific bias against some aspect of the victim, such as race, color, religion, sexual orientation, etc. In essence, they hate something about the victim vehemently enough to take violent action against them. But why? And who would do something like this?

The answers to these questions are as complex as humanity itself. One can spend a lifetime trying to understand the human personality. But for those who have asked if there might be some understanding to be found in the Five Elements model regarding how people can hate each other enough to turn violent, I would like to offer the following thoughts.

The Five Elements model provides us with the ability to categorize people into five basic personality groups based on key factors such as life focus, needs and priorities, vulnerabilities, etc. This same model contains not only personality information, but also key relationship dynamics between each of the five elemental personalities. And it’s this relationship information that’s important here because hate crimes are predicated on how one person (or group of people) relates to other people, specifically people who they dislike or have a bias against.

The five elemental personalities are defined by their differences across a variety of topics, but for those of you less familiar with them, their basic priorities can be summarized as follows:

  • Water personalities tend to focus on exploring inner wisdom and philosophy. Out of balance, they can become almost reclusive.
  • Wood personalities tend to focus on success and accomplishment in the physical world. Out of balance, they can become angry and abusive.
  • Fire personalities tend to focus on enjoying and celebrating life. Out of balance, they can become panicked and hysterical.
  • Earth personalities tend to focus on relationships with home, family, and friends. Out of balance, they can become codependent and timid.
  • Metal personalities tend to focus on acquiring and sharing wisdom. Out of balance, they can become erudite and dismissive.

In truth, any one of these elemental personalities could be capable of committing a crime if something they value was threatened. But an act as horrific as killing another human being would be hard for someone with a lot of Earth energy in their personality because Earths are usually caring, gentle people. Fire people would also be unlikely to commit hate crimes because their upbeat, gregarious personalities make them a friend to all. And Water personalities would be unlikely to resort to violence because they live most of life in their heads. The two elemental personalities most likely to take negative action against a fellow human would be Wood and Metal personalities, but for very different reasons.

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My Daughter Hates Her Teacher!

Dear Vicki: My high school senior is having problems with one of her teachers. I know, what high school student doesn’t have teacher problems, right? But my concern is that the dynamic between Jillian and Mr. Smith could set a tone for the rest of Jillian’s educational life. She’s an outgoing, fun-loving, teenager who excels at the more social aspects of high school like cheerleading and parties, but generally gets respectable grades. Mr. Smith is deliberate (Jillian calls him boring), thoughtful, and what I would call deep. Jillian finds his history class boring and thinks everything about him is a “total downer” (other than the fact that he frequently lets them out of class early). Consequently, she isn’t doing well in the class. I don’t want to let her drop it, but is there some way to help her appreciate his deep approach to learning? Signed, A Concerned Mom

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Dear Concerned Mom: Bless you for caring enough to help your daughter understand her teacher instead of just letting her bolt from the class. I think there is a definite possibility of offering Jillian a lesson in relationship dynamics as you assist her in better understanding her history teacher. Here’s how you might approach the situation.

Based on how you and Jillian describe him, it seems pretty likely that Mr. Smith is a Water personality. Water people are deep and thoughtful, love pondering the greater truths of the world, and often use wisdom from the past to inform current and future learning. Jillian, on the other hand, sounds like a Fire personality. Fires love socializing, being the focus of attention, and standing out in a crowd. If we use the Five Elements model, we will see that Jillian and Mr. Smith relate to each other via the Controlling Cycle where his Water energy controls her Fire energy. Few Fire people like having Water rain on their parade, so it’s understandable that Jillian reacts negatively to Mr. Smith.

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She Has a Difficult Relationship with Herself

Dear Vicki: I enjoy your blog and know it’s supposed to be about relationships with other people, but I’m wondering if we can use knowledge of the five elements to help get along better with ourselves. At times I actually feel like two different people. I work in a deadline-driven industry, so I’m usually focused on addressing the tasks at hand for the day. It matters to me to be seen as someone who can make things happen and succeed. But every now and then when I notice someone who needs help, I want to reach out and connect with them, but the voice in my head tells me I have too much to do and should mind my own business. The end result is that I pass by the opportunity to express the compassion I feel, and it makes me sad. Is there something I can do to change this? Signed, Too Efficient

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Dear Too Efficient: Your question is a beautiful illustration of the fact that our personal elements can and do become out of balance in relationship to each other. As I’ve said before, we each have all five elements in our personality make-up, it’s just that one or two are the most prominent, so create the personality we manifest to the world. And even thought our primary element determines how we see things, it shouldn’t interfere with our ability to express the totality of who we are. When that happens, it can indicate that something is out of balance in the way our personal five elements are relating and interacting with each other.

In your case, it sounds like you have a primary Wood personality; Wood people do want to be seen as someone who can make things happen and succeed. This is very important to them. Earth people, on the other hand, love to connect with and help people, so it’s likely you have Earth as your secondary element. And the fact that you are unable to express your Earth energies the way you’d like to suggests that you are manifesting too little Earth. That is often referred to as deficient Earth.

There could be many reasons for this, but given that you have a primary Wood personality which relates to your secondary Earth via the Controlling Cycle in the model, I think it’s safe to say that your Wood is over-controlling your Earth at an emotional level. Your letter didn’t mention if you’ve been more angry or impatient than usual lately, but these would be additional clues that you have too much Wood energy at the moment and it’s affecting your ability to express your Earth.

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